Education in the Spotlight: A Report from ATA’s Education and Pedagogy Committee

ATA is committed to promoting high standards in translator and interpreter training and to the development of translation and interpreting programs within the American educational system.

At the ATA Board of Directors’ January meeting, the Board was briefed on the expanded charge for the Education and Pedagogy Committee. The committee will broaden its reach and scope of activities to monitor translation and interpreting (T&I) programs in the U.S. at every level. It will also cultivate and maintain relationships with several allied organizations. (For example, the committee serves as a liaison to the American Translation and Interpreting Studies Association.)

As experts in our field who are part of a professional association founded to advance the translation and interpreting professions and foster the professional development of individual translators and interpreters, we have an opportunity to disseminate our knowledge to academia and to the public. We can also influence research priorities and public policy on matters that affect ATA members and those who use our services. ATA stands to benefit from reinforcing its position as the expert in all things T&I, as well as from attracting professionally minded newcomers who choose to become members of ATA.

Helping Educators Gain Support for Language Studies

A growing T&I industry needs students with excellent language skills, which means that traditional language studies must be supported and supplemented by time abroad. Heritage language programs also need attention. Committee members envision a system where a year (or two!) of study abroad is the norm rather than the exception. It’s an uphill battle, especially with declining enrollment in language studies in secondary and postsecondary programs. This is partially due to strong social and political support for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs. (For example, Florida senators approved a bill allowing high school students to take computer coding classes in place of language credit requirements.)1

ATA is in a position to help educators and department administrators build a strong case for not only beefing up language course offerings, but also incorporating T&I skills-building courses and/or developing solid certificate or degree programs. In addition, strong growth in the T&I sector is compelling for college students (and their parents), who are amassing debt and need to see the potential for building a career with their qualifications.

Monitor, Support, Promote

The ATA Board counts on the Association’s committees to provide information so that they can understand the issues before them. Our charge to monitor T&I programs influences a large part of the committee’s activities.

  • Students have a hard time finding comprehensive information about T&I programs. Assembling this information is a fundamental task of the committee, as is making the information available to those who need it most. We envision a project to create an online database of U.S.-based programs (possibly expanding this to international programs later on) that provides potential students with a one-stop solution for finding a program that suits their needs. Having this database in place would also simplify our task of keeping tabs on the academic landscape and provide us with solid information to support any policy recommendations.
  • Language departments—where many university-level programs are housed—have long been targets for budget and job cuts. The committee already fields requests from programs threatened by budget cuts, so tracking and forming relationships with language programs will reinforce our ability to offer support.
  • We want ATA to be the expert body people reach out to when they want to beef up their T&I program offerings. As a result of the work that has already been done on ATA’s Certification Program, we have an outline of the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to translate. This kind of information is exactly what’s needed when new programs are being established. Having this information might even lead to some exciting new avenues (e.g., potential grants to assist language programs, developing a consultancy program with an allied organization with the goal of solidifying ATA’s reputation as an expert in interpreter and translator preparation.)
Help from Our Friends

Strength in numbers means that ATA builds and maintains relationships with organizations that support its mission. ATA is a long-time member of the Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies, which bring together a myriad of schools, associations, and businesses that all have a vested interested in influencing public perception and policy for language acquisition.

(See the sidebar below highlighting the advocacy efforts of ATA representatives.)

Committee members also attend national and regional gatherings of language educators, where we are carrying the message that growth in the T&I world—both current and projected—means we need all hands on deck to cultivate professionally proficient language students. ATA is also there to help as an organization whose members are experts in the field.

Onward

ATA’s Board and the members of the Education and Pedagogy Committee are excited about the positive reactions we’ve received from our colleagues in education and look forward to future endeavors. Look for more developments as our plans take shape, as well as the occasional call to contact your lawmakers to change the tide in language education and professional T&I preparation.

 Promoting Language Study in Washington, DC

Past ATA President Caitilin Walsh joined other ATA representatives in Washington, DC, for the Language Advocacy Day and Delegate Assembly, where she met with legislative and National Endowment for the Humanities staffers.

The Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS) hosted a Language Advocacy Day and Delegate Assembly in Washington, DC, earlier this year. Over 100 education and language representatives came together to lobby for the advancement and funding of language education and the language industry. ATA was represented by Past Presidents Caitilin Walsh (who is also chair of ATA’s Education and Pedagogy Committee) and Peter Krawutschke (who is ATA’s representative to JNCL-NCLIS).

Advocacy attendees met with their legislators to build relationships and raise awareness about the direct tie between growth in the T&I industry and world language education. The focus was on funding for programs that support both heritage and study abroad programs—which are key to the professional proficiency level demanded by our industry.

On Capitol Hill, ATA Past President Caitilin Walsh met with legislative staffers from her home state of Washington, including Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Representative Suzan Delbene. She also joined a larger team from the JNCL-NCLIS delegation to meet with key staff at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Past ATA President Caitilin Walsh joined other ATA representatives in Washington, DC, for the Language Advocacy Day and Delegate Assembly, where she met with legislative and National Endowment for the Humanities staffers.

Past ATA President Caitilin Walsh joined other ATA representatives in Washington, DC, for the Language Advocacy Day and Delegate Assembly, where she met with legislative and National Endowment for the Humanities staffers.

 

Notes
  1. Iszler, Madison. “Florida Senate Approves Making Coding a Foreign Language,” USA Today (March 1, 2016), http://bit.ly/computer-coding.

Caitilin Walsh is a past president of ATA (2013–2015). She currently serves as chair of ATA’s Education and Pedagogy Committee. An ATA-certified French>English translator, she produces translations for the computer industry and food lovers alike. She is a graduate of Willamette University (Oregon) and the Université de Strasbourg (France). She teaches ethics and business practices at the Translation and Interpreting Institute at Bellevue College. She is also a member of the Translation and Interpreting Advisory Committee for the Puget Sound Skills Center. Contact: cwalsh@nwlink.com.

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